Last night I heard a radio commercial for some phonics program where a little girl did a testimonial that went, “My name is Stacey.

I’m 6 years old, and I know how to read!”

Is that really surprising? I mean, I knew how to read when I was 6, too.

It was called school.

We didn’t need no fancy phonics programs.

Just transportation from our parents.

I carpooled with the family next door, the Williamses, whose father felt the need to whistle Dean Martin’s “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime” whenever it came on the radio.

The books may not have been the most prestigious reading in the world, and the plotlines were kind of thin. We never really found out what happened once Jack threw the ball and Spot caught it.

I guess in the perfect world, Jack became either an astronaut, cowboy or fireman. Spot saved a family of orphans from a burning building, or ran away.

My first year in elementary school, 1967, was fairly early in the integration process and it may have been the first year. I’m not sure.

Safe to say we kids proved wrong the pychologists who said going to school with other races would warp our brains.

As I remember it, we just really didn’t care about it all that much. At least I didn’t. I’d seen black kids before. They were just like white kids, only darker.

My biggest worry was tying my shoes, and that dreadful day when the ants got in my Mickey Mouse lunchbox and ate my PB&J sandwich.

I was in high school during another crucial time in American history: the year cafeterias switched from milk cartons to milk bags.

Soon we discovered we could attack each other. A carefully placed fist in the middle of a straw-filled bag could send milk all over your neighbor’s face. If that got too boring, you could send dairy product flying into a nearby plate.

These things, which looked like a crude version of either a tank, or a Martian machine from “War of the Worlds,” could accomplish their dastardly acts in split-seconds.

The first day I got one of those bags I forgot to put my thumb, or some other appropriate appendage, over the hole in the straw to puncture the bag. The milk, of course, went everywhere and everybody laughed.

A physics lesson? Or another cruel fact of growing up?

[E-mail Robert Hankins at]